27 Battersea Rise
© Rob Greig
Time Out rating:
Time Out says
Tue Jan 17 2012
It might not be obvious, but London is the centre of the world’s wine trade. Not because we produce more than Italy, drink more than France, or spend more per bottle than the Kiwis. It’s our very distance and impartiality that makes us the perfect base for international wine buyers, shippers and sommeliers. British restaurants, bars and off-licences needn’t be partisan, as the English wine industry has no stranglehold on the supply chain, and in any case is hardly a threat to the gigalitres produced in Australia or California. Our wine journalism is not run by advertisers, as it is in some other countries.
London has been heavily involved in the wine trade since Bordeaux was under English rule (from the twelfth to the fifteenth century). We have imported wine from across Europe and the New World, sipped and sniffed it, and become discerning experts. Our buyers and sellers really know their plonk from their pinot noir, which makes this the best city in the world to explore the world of wine.
While sitting at home with reference books and tasting notes is fun for some, the best place to enjoy wine is in a wine bar. Many elements need to be carefully blended. Most of us want a lively, convivial atmosphere; charmingly efficient and informed service; a menu of terrific dishes; and a wine list put together by enthusiasts who don’t think we’re all on bankers’ bonuses.
Terroirs in Charing Cross caused a sensation when it opened in 2008, because it got all these requirements spot-on: great food, nice buzz, exciting wines. It remains a leading light, and at the end of 2010 its owner – leading wine importer Les Caves de Pyrene – opened a more robust, food-led branch, Brawn, in Bethnal Green. Soif is the third, and again we’re searching through the superlatives to describe it.
There aren’t that many still table wines by the glass – six red, six white – but they’re all aimed at wine enthusiasts, from a grown-up list. By the bottle there are trendy producers; lots from the Loire; so-called ‘natural wines’; obscurities from the Jura; and not a lot under £30, but enough to keep any wine buff very happy.
Soif’s food menu is a brief page, changing daily. Little sections of bone marrow were served like squidgy scallops that dissolved in the mouth; cooked with ceps and a crust of garlic, parsley and fried breadcrumbs, the result was very autumnal. Clams were simply served in the shell with lemon and coriander leaves. Offal and meaty cuts are well represented: pigs’ cheeks were neatly rounded and served with a cider jus which was neither too heavily reduced nor too watery. But if dark meat’s not your thing, alternatives include crisp-skinned gurnard, served with chickpeas and a nut-rich but deep red romesco sauce.
Soif’s split-level room is slightly rustic, vaguely Continental and a little louche, in just the way you’d want a wine bar to be.The service was informed, prompt, smiling. Of course, the place is already packed and noisy. Book a table if you love wine and good food, and are in a celebratory mood.
Soif 27 Battersea Rise
020 7223 1112
- Opening hours:
Open noon-10.30pm daily.
Tube: Clapham Junction rail/overground
Meal for two with wine and service: around £90.
- 27 Battersea Rise
- 020 7223 1112
- 27 Battersea Rise
Drinks. Wine buffs